and Your Salvation
by Susan Vennari
The thoughts of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen are often inspirational. Consider for a moment some words he wrote about the human body.
“What does grace do to our human nature? First of all, it makes the body a temple of God. That is one of the reasons for purity. What is a temple? A temple is a place where God dwells. Remember when Jesus went into the temple of Jerusalem and the Pharisees asked for a sign, and Our Blessed Lord said, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it.’ He was not speaking of that earthly temple, He was speaking of the temple of His body, because in that human nature of Christ, God dwelt. By our participation in that divine life He dwells in us. That’s why the body is sacred. That’s why we have reverence for it. The body is not a worm, something vile. It is His temple, and one day it will be glorified too.”
With summer days upon us, the temptation to put on a tank top and shorts can be beguiling; to sit back in slovenly manner, to come to Mass looking like a “casual-ty”; to let the children run wild with the neighbors and friends, whose attention to attire and deportment may be of dubious influence.
The Church has always taught that parents are responsible for children’s wear. Parents’ first duty is to set a good example, not only in church, but also at all times. Slovenly and immodest dress at church or religious functions is not acceptable; immodest dress is never acceptable.
Are there guidelines for decent dress? A directive issued in 1928 under Pope Pius XI is not out of date. “... a dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat, which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows, and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent material are improper ...”
Can you hear the teenagers groan at this instruction? Do we ourselves groan? Do we remember what Fulton Sheen reminded us about the body? It is Our Lord’s temple. It is appropriate that we veil the holy place for His dwelling, just as a tabernacle should be veiled.
Our Lady spoke simply at Fatima when She said, “Certain fashions will be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much.” Ought we not to ponder Her ominous warning, given in gentle tones and manner, and consider it a teaching for our time. What do we wear that helps us to resemble Our Lady, Our Queen, the Mother of God?
What should one do about one’s clothes? If there is doubt about a garment, one must ask oneself, ‘Would Saint Joseph wear this tank top to a barbeque?’ ‘Would I like to meet Our Lady wearing spaghetti straps?’ If my body is not vile, but is sacred, then I should yearn to clothe my body as the holy thing it is. Not only are these “clothes” not for me, but they are not appropriate for anyone else. What do we do about them? We give them up, not with sloth, but with joy and love.
Mothers and fathers must teach this protection of the holy temple to their children, as Pius XI instructed in his 1930 “Letter on Christian Modesty”:
“Parents, conscious of their grave obligations to-ward the education, especially religious and moral, of their offspring, should see to it that their daughters are solidly instructed, from earliest childhood, in Christian doctrine; and they themselves should assiduously inculcate in their souls by word and example, love for the virtues of modesty and chastity; and since their family should follow the example of the Holy Family, they must rule in such a manner that its members, reared within the walls of the home, should find reason and incentive to love and preserve modesty.”
Social morals and standards for dress have collapsed. But before God, we will answer for our own actions. Do we set a good (uncomplaining) example for others, especially for our children? Do we deport ourselves with a reserve appropriate for something holy? Do we eschew revealing and degrading fashions? Do we guard our children for their spiritual well-being, keeping also in mind the effect their dress may cause in others? Do we do these things with love for the souls entrusted to our care? If we are attentive to these things for the sake of loving God, then we will offer a pure and beautiful temple in which He may reside.